One of the books I have been reading recently has been called 'How are we to live? Ethics in age of self-interest'. It's a book written by Peter Singer, he of 'Animal Liberation' fame, a book that sparked a whole new awareness of the plights of animals under humankind and limited the Animal Liberation movement not only in the UK, but in many other parts of the world.
At present, I have only just begun reading this book but already it has raised many questions within me which will probably keep me rambling on within this and future columns for Christine for ages, no doubt driving her bonkers in the process but there you go!
One of the things that Singer points out in his initial argument is that many people ignore the challenge within life of actually living by a set of ethics. Singer's argument also contends that many human beings live and die unreflectively, that many of us do not consider the way in which we live and our actions mean, both for ourselves and for others.
the world of punk/hardcore and within our own individual daily lives, I think that these sentiments ring true. Many bands have lyrics which prescribe a lifestyle opposed to that of mainstream culture but I doubt very much how many of the individuals within each band can truly say they live by the words they advocate.
Some may argue "why do you have to live by a set of ethics? Why can't I just live? I don't see why I should care or think about the consequence of my actions?, about people in this country or other countries". To me, even if you have such nihilistic views, in the end, you cannot escape the world with which you are inherently responsible for. No matter what you say, no matter what argument you put forth, whatever action you take, how you decide to live your life, the consequences of your actions has an effect on and within the world's environment. This effect can be on yourself, other human beings, animals, or the environment that we are a part of It can be from how you buy your food, where you buy your food, what transport you use to go and buy your food. There are so many reasons. Therefore by deliberately not making an ethical choice about how you live your life, you are in fact making one. How you choose to live whilst on this earth is, I think, important.
This, in a roundabout way, leads me into another argument, one which I think is to an extent ignored because it goes against what people like to perceive is actually happening (especially within the punk/hardcore movement). That is that DIY is actually a method of co-operation. To some extent, I do believe being DIY can be co-operative but also, I would argue that it also creates a certain amount of selfishness and distrust of others - something I am sure others would contend DIY was not.
However, my reason for stating this is that the actual ethic of DIY - Doing It Yourself - is actually that; Doing It Yourself. Often DIY is a prerequisite because either you believe in DIY as an act of independence, and therefore a type of liberty and control of and over your own work, or because you cannot trust outside authorities to interfere, process incorrectly, or blatantly refuse to print/press your work.
Even CRASS, which was one of the initiators of DIY within the punk movement in the late 70s and early 80s, itself became a 'label'. Although in principal, the DIY ethic was still in place with CRASS publishing without interference other bands records, in the end, CRASS as a "label" became recognized as being something that you can attach a label to whether that label be power-violence or emo-core. The principle of bands maintaining autonomy has, to some extent, by being associated with that 'known' label, been lost. However, people like neat categories where they can pigeon-hole bands into. This is partially understandable. People know what they like and want to be able to find what they like easily and quickly. A label that specializes in one thing, one genre of music, provides that. However, closed-mindedness can easily set in and divisions between people arise as seen by the hatred some straight-edgers (I am using SXE as a pure form of argument here!) use against others who do not comply with their 'rules'. Arguably, you could say that a band releasing an EP/LP on another's DIY label is acting in co-operation with that label, which after all is what I believe DIY to mean; co-operation, creating a network of friends whilst maintaining control over your work and environment.
Where this concept falls down, is I believe when bands just give songs to labels and take no further active participation past the recording and sleeve notes. What about the active involvement of distribution? What about the participation of writing, talking and interacting with people from not just your own country but from others also? If you are that concerned and motivated by the DIY ethic, you will fight to achieve these goals of co-operation, mutual aid and communication. And why should ethics within punk stop at the way a record is produced. Surely, how you act and deal with people in the punk scene should extend into your general lifestyle and not just into putting out a punk record or zine. Of course there are compromises that have to be made but unless you actually consciously think about the choices and decisions in front of you and choose the direction YOU feel ethically that you can take then you are not choosing how you wish to live; you are instead being directed and dictated to how you should live. Some people may argue not to have the time or the resources to act independently but this is where collaboration, co-operation and mutual aid come into their own. This is where we, within our built up western conceived ideas of individualism, have to take control of our own lives and learn to work and trust our fellow human beings. By being able to trust, work, learn and co-operate with each other, we not only gain new friends, greater understanding, appreciation of the work going in to make your product a success, but we also learn a lot about ourselves; how much we, (you, me), as individuals are prepared to trust other people, to let them work with something we value, to learn new skills. By taking responsibility over our own lives (which is my own view of anarchism) by finding out who you can borrow a computer from/use or who can collectively input money into producing and distributing a record (the DDI 10" in Italy is something I am particularly thinking of), we cannot only overcome cultural and national barriers, we can also overcome selfish and emotional barriers within ourselves.
Life is based on diversity. You only have to look around to see that. By having such a bunkered outlook, by not acknowledging others self-worth, others skills, we lose that diversity which is essentially, our greatest strength. This is why the ethical choices you make in your life can have such a huge effect on others. Because what you embrace, how you live your life is an example of what can be achieved and if you acknowledge what one person's actions can amount to, just imagine what a collective amount of actions can lead to!
I hope to continue this line of thought in the next SLUG & LETTUCE but in the meantime, I hope what I have written, whether you agree or not, has given you something to think about. We cannot blindly accept everything given to us as being the truth. Continually question. Lack of thought leads to ignorance, leads to intolerance, leads to mistrust, leads to hatred. The human race has already gone too far down that well trodden road. If, as a free-thinking individual, you do not oppose that degradation then humanity will continue to plummet to new depths. We have the option to FIGHT BACK. Think. Act!
—Steve 'Attitude Problem'
For communication write to Steve 'Attitude Problem', A Network of Friends, P.O. Box 2576, Hardcore House, Colchester, Essex, C03 4AY, U.K. Thanks and take care.